While Rome Burns: The Media’s Tune

Fanning the Flames of Racial Discord in the United States

As the story of the shooting in Bedford County Pennsylvania in August evolved, we saw more information about the altercation that led to the shooting. Originally, many media outlets reported that the homeowners shot the marcher who was moving through their town peacefully along with the founder of the group. However, NRN reserved judgement on the case because this case, like many other cases, changes in context as more facts were released.

The Bedford Shooting

When the original story came out, many media outlets reported a version of the story where “some redneck with a gun” came out to a “peaceful protest” and started firing off his rifle. As the story evolved, it followed a track that we are very familiar with:

Report 1: White (Trump-Supporting) bigot shoots unarmed black activists with an assault rifle in the face.

Report 2: White (Trump-Supporting) bigot shoots unarmed black activist with buckshot in the face.

Report 3: White (We do not know who he supports) bigot shoots unarmed person following activist with buckshot in the face.

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Report 4: White home owner shoots unarmed person following activist in the face.

Report 5: Home owner shoots unarmed person following activist in the face with birdshot (not buckshot).

Report 6: Home owner shoots unarmed person following activist in the face with birdshot after altercation.

Report 7: Home owner exchanges gunfire with person following activist after altercation, on his front lawn.

As you can see, over the course of 36 hours, there have been 7 reports clarifying what happened. We went from the home owner being a Trump Supporting Bigot to the activist having a firearm and shooting at the home owner (who fired first we do not know yet). Media jumping on this case too quickly has resulted in false reports spreading across the country, but we do not see these “false” reports coming through the Facebook and Instagram Fact Checkers.

History of Media Fanning the Flames

This is not the first time that we have seen the media create a racial issue where there was not one. Last year, we had the case of Jesse Smollett who alleged that Trump Supporters attacked him in the streets. This was later found out to be a fabricated story. Likewise, Bubba Wallace reported that he was targeted with a noose in his garage, which was later found out to have been there for several years. The media went wild with these stories in the first 24 hours, but then when the information was found to be false, the retractions were slow to come out.

If it was just with celebrities, one could say that it was a PR stunt. However, we have seen vicious attacks on the police follow the same pattern. The media reported that George Floyd was killed by a police officer obstructing his airways by kneeling on his neck (which was wrong). The coroners report stated that the death was not from the detainment, but there was a private autopsy done that disagreed (how many private autopsies do you get for people dying)?

Months later, after cities burned because of the false narrative, Keith Ellison, the Attorney General of Minnesota and the former DNC chair, released that there was body cam footage that showed Mr. Floyd was gasping for air before he was on the ground and ASKED to be placed on the ground because he could not breath. The media, and some corrupt politicians, allowed the false narrative to go on while cities burned.

This pattern is fairly standard. A week ago a black man was shot by white police officers in Wisconsin. At first it was “An unarmed man who was breaking up a domestic dispute was shot in front of his children by racist police officers.” Then the facts came out:

Fact 1: He was breaking the domestic dispute up with a knife.

Fact 2: The police told him to drop the knife.

Fact 3: He told the police he was going to get his gun from the car.

All of this is on the video, but for some reason, the big news channels did not play it with sound, only the video. He told the police he was going for a weapon, that should be justification to protect themselves.

We saw this pattern emerge with cases dating back as far as the Treyvon Martin case, the media fanning the flames of hate to sell papers and air time. As a people, a united people, we need to fight against this misinformation and work to unite across the country.

Trevor’s Axiom

If you have read my column before, you know that I am a fan of the “Trevor’s Axiom” concept from South Park. The basic idea is that when a person wants to troll or agitate a group of people, you post something that will offend the original person AND offend people who oppose the original person’s opponents. This causes the opponents to buy into the debate and attack the original target. This is what we are seeing happen in the media today.

Black Americans are not to blame for the riots. Studies have shown that most of the rioters are whites (with a plurality being teachers). By depicting that rioters as black, the media is getting racists to join in the hate by attacking the “black” rioters. Now while there are people of every race at the riots, keeping the focus on black and white causes people to have to choose sides. When you follow the story, you have to choose sides. When you follow the facts, you realize that the divide is not Black and White but Media v. the People. Which side are you on?

While America burns, we are looking at the media as the biggest culprit behind the hate. Hate sells papers, and right now the media needs the ratings. We cannot allow the deaths of criminals who were fighting against police officers to be turned into martyrdom of saints by bigots. We cannot allow the issue to become ‘black v. white’ when the real issue is major problems within our society. Racism is a problem, but the real problem is how racism is being used to promote those in power; how it is being used to divide us and keep us voting in our little boxes. Choose to step outside the box, to shake hands with your neighbor and to help make the world the place we want it to be.

We all want our kids to be safe. We all want drug dealers and rapists off the street. We all want the United States to be that shining city on the Hill that we know it can be for everyone. But for these things to happen, we need a media that protects the people, not a media that fans the fires and fiddles while Rome burns.


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Author Profile

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer
Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer
Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.